This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Want to get a ceiling fan but you aren’t sure about how much power it uses and if that’s worth it? Here’s what you want to know.
A normal new ceiling fan for residential use consumes 20-50 Watts (about $15-$30 a year @ 8 hours a day) at the highest speed. Ceiling fans are one of the most energy efficient ways to stay comfortable year round. Ceiling fans can also reduce power bills if used in combination with A/C and/or heating.
Below you can read how much electricity ceiling fans use, what’s the most efficient way to use it and how to save even more money.
How Much Power Does a Ceiling Fan Use?
How much power a ceiling fan consumes depends on a few factors. Design, quality, motor type and size are some of those factors. If you run the fan at full speed or not also has an impact.
If you look at the power ratings of residential ceiling fans (48”-60”), you’ll see that most of the models are rated to consume between 30 and 40 Watts. A few models are even lower than that with ratings just above 20 Watts. Some of the less efficient models consume a bit more power but more than 50 Watts is rare for a new residential ceiling fan.
Suggested: Are some ceiling fans more efficient?
Power consumption in isolation doesn’t tell the whole story though. Because one fan can use very little power but they also don’t move a lot of air. So the amount of airflow you get per Watt is actually not that good.
The fairest way to look at it is CFM/W or airflow per Watt. However, that’s not always easy to figure out and just getting the most efficient fan doesn’t necessarily mean you end up with the best fan for your situation. Larger fans tend to be more efficient but you might not need or be able to fit a fan that large. Also, not all manufacturers are completely transparent with how this is measured exactly. They might claim the power consumption for the low setting while using the CFM rating for the high setting for example. So looking at both the total power consumption and CFM/W is necessary.
However, as a general rule you can look for a CFM/W that’s higher than 100. That means that fan produces 100 CFM of airflow for every Watt it consumes. Most fans that show the energy rating will show both the total energy consumption and CFM/W. Above 200 is possible on some of the very efficient models. Larger models tend to be more efficient.
If you have an older ceiling fan, there is a good chance it uses quite a bit more electricity than the ones in the list above.
Is a Ceiling Fan More Efficient Than A/C?
A ceiling fan uses much less power than an A/C unit and is also cheaper to buy and maintain. Ceiling fans are often enough to stay comfortable however, A/C actually cools the air which is necessary in some very hot and/or humid climates.
Does a ceiling fan use less electricity to keep you cool than an A/C unit? A ceiling fan and an air-conditioning unit do two very different things although they both have the goal of keeping people inside a space comfortable.
However, air-conditioning actually cools down the air in a room. You can set the temperature and the A/C will (try) to get the air in the room to that set temperature. In the process it provides a little airflow in order to distribute the cool air from the unit into the room.
A ceiling fan does not cool the air temperature in the room. It provides airflow which helps cool people and pets down by providing a breeze. Everyone will know this works if you’ve ever felt a breeze or wind. A ceiling fan can also help distribute fresh air through the room if there is an open window or door for example.
Air conditioning uses a lot more electricity per hour than a ceiling fan to get to the same comfort level. A big ceiling fan on the highest setting will use about 50 Watts while a split A/C unit uses 500-1000 Watt at least. So comparing A/C and a ceiling fan, there is no competition. A ceiling fan uses much less energy.
However, sometimes a ceiling fan alone is not enough to get you comfortable. Using a ceiling fan in combination with A/C can be very effective at reducing power usage in that case. Because of the wind-chill effect, you can turn down (or is it up) the A/C a few degrees higher. That means you knock a few hundred Watts of the energy consumption of the A/C in return for at most 50 Watt consumption from the ceiling fan. That’s a pretty good deal in my opinion.
How To Pick An Energy Efficient Ceiling Fan?
So while ceiling fans don’t actually use all that much electricity compared to some other cooling methods, it’s always good to save a little bit extra on your electric bill. How can you pick a ceiling fan that uses the least amount of electricity?
There are a few things you can look for:
- DC motor
- Energy rating
Power Consumption Rating
Of course the first thing you should take a look at the energy rating of the fan. Many fans have their energy consumption advertised somewhere in the specs. This way you can have a very good idea of how much power the fan will use. Usually the rating will be at full speed unless otherwise advertised.
However, you won’t often run a ceiling fan at full speed. At lower speeds the energy consumption will be significantly lower than at full speed. Your car won’t get the same fuel economy using full throttle everywhere than if you drive sensibly. And while it’s not bad to run a ceiling fan at full speed, if you need to do so, it’s better to get a bigger/stronger fan.
Another easy thing that’s easily spotted is an Energy Star logo. Energy Star claims that ceiling fans with their rating use 60% less electricity than a ‘conventional’ ceiling fan. They are not too forthcoming about what a ‘conventional’ ceiling fan exactly is but to get the rating a ceiling fan needs to produce a certain amount of airflow per Watt of energy consumption.
So while the Energy Star rating might not guarantee the absolute most efficient ceiling fan, you can expect a pretty good level of efficiency.
If you’re interested, you can find the Energy Star ceiling fan requirements by clicking here.
One of the things you can look for in your search for an energy efficient fan, is a DC type motor. This is a slightly different type of electric motor that tends to be; More energy efficient and quieter. Both characteristics are very welcome in a ceiling fan.
DC motors tend to be found in a bit more expensive ceiling fans since they’re more expensive to make. That means you have more upfront costs for a slightly lower electric bill. If that’s worth it is up to you. Since the ceiling fans with a DC motor are usually of a bit higher quality, they will last longer which is obviously also a benefit.
This might seem a bit counterintuitive but a bigger fan is a bit more energy efficient than a smaller one. That’s because a fan with larger blades will move more air at the same speed than a fan with smaller blades.
That means you can run a bigger fan at a lower speed and still get the same airflow with the added benefit of less noise. Of course a bigger fan at full speed will use more energy but if you only have to use half speed, it is likely to be more efficient than a small fan at full speed.
Of course there are limits here. One of those limits is the size of your room. You want to leave a gap of 2’-3’ from the tip of the blade to the closest object so there is a limit to how large you can go. You can take a look at the airflow (CFM) requirements for a room your size. You can then find a fan that can supply that amount and then find a model that’s a size larger.
LED Light Kit
Of course when you are buying a ceiling fan with built in (or add-on) light kit, there is some efficiency to be had there too. Most light kits that come with new ceiling fans have LED’s. LED’s are quite a bit more efficient than normal incandescent bulbs and nowadays you can get them in any color and ‘strength’ you like.
Do make sure you get a light kit that has replaceable bulbs. Some aren’t and while LED’s last longer than incandescent bulbs, they can still break and it would be a waste to have to buy a whole new light kit instead of just a new bulb.
How To Use a Ceiling Fan To Save Energy and Money
Just getting the most efficient ceiling fan you can find is a good start but there are a few other things you can do to make sure you don’t use any more power than necessary.
- Turn it off
- Reverse rotation in the winter
- Combine with A/C
Ceiling fans cool people and pets down through the wind-chill effect but don’t actually cool down the air in the room. So turn it off when the room is left empty. Of course if you just leave for a minute or so this is not worth it because you’ll have to start the fan up again which costs a bit more power than just running at a constant speed. Also, if you are turning on the fan for air circulation and not comfort, it can be worth it to leave turned on.
In the summer, the wind-chill effect cools down people in the room, reducing the need for A/C. However, in the winter, there is also a use case for ceiling fans. In the winter, you probably use heating. Hot air rises up and therefore the air temperature just under the ceiling is higher than just above the floor. Reversing the rotation of the fan will not blow any direct air onto the people but it will circulate the hot air over the whole room. That means you can turn down the heating a few degrees which makes a big difference in energy consumption. Just running the ceiling fan at a low speed will be enough to accomplish this.
And finally, as already discussed above, you can combine the A/C and ceiling fan in order to lower the energy consumption of the A/C.